Donna’s Men

by Michael E. Lloyd

Table of Contents
Synopses
Book I: Windmills Everywhere

Chapter 3: Dreaming the Blues

part 3 of 3


‘Good, still plenty of room at the tables by the river. I fancy a pint or two and a big plate of fish and chips. What about you?’

‘I’ll just have an orange juice, Shaun. And a cheese baguette.’

‘Right. You grab a table, and I’ll go in and order. Ah, did you bring that cash with you ...?’

‘Oh, sorry, forgot all about it! Yes, I picked up plenty just now. Let’s see ... return train ticket, Tube fares, other bits and pieces — and you’d better have a little more for emergencies, eh? Will seventy-five be enough?’

‘Well ...’

‘OK, let’s make it a hundred, and then you can pay for lunch! There you are.’

‘Thanks, Donna. You’re really kind.’

His turn one day, I hope.

‘No problem. Glad to be able to show my gratitude.’

* * *

‘Well, that was very pleasant! I was quite hungry too, actually. Got up very early this morning. Anyway, let’s press on towards King’s Parade ...’

‘I have a much better idea. Let’s pretend we’re in Venice.’

‘Eh?’

‘The punting station’s right in front of us, Donna. They’re not exactly gondolas, but I can take you for a nice leisurely ride up the Backs!’

‘We still have a lot work to do, Shaun.’

‘And we’ll be doing it. Plenty of fine college aspects to check out from the river. Anyway, I’m not taking “No” for an answer!’

It’s very romantic of him, actually. And I do like firm men.

‘All right, Shaunie. It is a lovely idea. But please let’s leave plenty of time for some proper investigating afterwards!’

‘Cross my heart, Donna. Now, I think you’ll be able to pay with cash or your credit card ...’

* * *

‘This is even nicer than you promised, Shaun. Very relaxing, and the sun’s starting to peep through at last! Didn’t the Mathematical Bridge look great?’

‘Yeah.’

Show some emotion, man. And I could sense Erasmus there in Queens’ — surely he could as well? Why didn’t he say so?

‘King’s was as beautiful as ever, wasn’t it? Honey still for tea, poor Rupert? Oh, the worms! But I’m in no rush to die. And Clare’s still wonderful too. Sing again for me, brave Siegfried.’

‘You’re not making much sense, Donna.’

Huh. You’re not much fun right now, Shaunie.

‘And the new Trinity Hall Library’s a really stunning design, isn’t it ...’

‘Yes. I like the way it seems to hang over the river without quite falling in.’

Hah! That’s better, man! And there’s a Priestley aura here — and that brief history ebbing and flowing again ...

‘Trinity College is still looking lovely, across the lawns.’

‘Certainly is.’

Bacon and Byron and Dryden for tea, Tennyson, Newton and Donna makes ... six.

‘And you’re a very good punter, Shaun! Much better than the silly ass I saw in Oxford yesterday — and those noisy kids behind us. Thank you ever so much ...’

‘My pleasure, lovely lady. And ... oh dear, I don’t think you’re going to be very happy about this ...’

‘What? What is it??’

‘We’re just coming up to St John’s Bridge of Sighs. Good job you’re facing the other way ...’

‘Why? Oh, they haven’t ...’

‘Afraid so. It’s been turned into Hertford Bridge!’

‘Oh no, Shaun! No, no, no!’

‘He never laid a finger on you, lady!’

‘Ha-ha-ha!’

‘I’d like to, though! Wish I had a pole like his!’

‘Ha-ha-ha!’

‘Oh, SHUT UP, you ignorant fools! Shaun, I daren’t look!’

‘I think you should, Donna. For the record, you know. We’re getting very close now.’

‘Oh, all right, if you insist ... Aaaarrgh!’

‘Sit still, woman, or you’ll have us both in the water! And we’re about to go under the bridge — you don’t want to lose your head!’

‘OK ....... Aaaarrgh! This is even worse than Oxford! It’s wrong on the other side too! Let me get off! I’ve got to get off!’

‘All right, all right! We’re only two minutes from the Magdalene Bridge punts station. For heaven’s sake sit still!!’

* * *

‘You can’t just abandon it here, sir. The hire contract specifies that you must return it to the Silver Street station.’

‘I appreciate that, but ...’

‘Look, sunshine, I know you’re only doing your job, but I’m not getting back into that punt, OK? They can keep the damned deposit, and here’s another twenty for you to take it back yourself. Right, come on Shaun, I need somewhere to sit down ...’


‘How are you feeling now?’

‘A bit better. Specially with you holding me like this. But it’s just not fair, is it? And surely we need to start taking notes ...’

‘I think you’ll remember things well enough. So, do you want to stay here a little longer, or shall we carry on?’

Go for it, Donna. Seize the moments.

‘Let’s get going. But nice and easy, please — I’m still feeling really shaky ...’

‘Sure. We can wander up to the Round Church, to start with. Should be safe enough — I can’t think of anything they could swap with that delightful carbuncle!’

‘Oh, Shaunie, you do know how to cheer me up! Come on, then!’


‘Yes, it is looking fine. But we must get back to examining the colleges now. Straight over to St John’s first.’

‘Just what I was going to suggest.’

But it’s obvious, man.

‘Great minds, Shaun. I’m drowning already in a sea of Wordsworth and a universe of Adams. And there’s maybe just a whiff of Hulme, and ... Aaaarrgh!’

‘Hey, you’ve beaten me to it this time!’

‘They’ve replaced the entire frontage with Trinity College’s!’

‘Yes ...’

‘And it’s only a few yards down the street! How dare they do this to us?’

‘I don’t know, Donna. I just don’t know. Hey there, hush now, baby — come here and let me hold you again, or you’ll end up knocking people off their bikes ...’

‘Oh Shaun, what are we going to do? We have to tell somebody!’

‘There’s no point. You know they won’t believe us. We just need to keep the faith and carry on gathering the facts. Look, let’s go straight along to Trinity and see if it’s still OK ...’

‘Yes, of course! That’s exactly what we have to do!’


‘No, it’s not OK! Is it, Shaun? They really have swapped them over, haven’t they?’

‘Yes, you’re right, yet again. The patterned Elizabethan brickwork’s similar, and so are all the castellations and the canopied statuettes — but the single gate and its decoration and the windows all belong to St John’s.’

He’s just brilliant! He could write a guide book!

‘Oh, thank god!’

‘You mean you’re happy about this?’

‘Yes! No! Oh hell, I just don’t know!’

‘Hmmm. Well, we’d better not hang around here much longer — there are too many people beginning to take an interest in us.’

‘But isn’t that just what we want?’

‘No, it isn’t, Donna! Come on, down Green Street! Hurry!’


‘Sidney Sussex College is straight ahead, Donna. It’s looking fine, right? That should make you feel better.’

‘Oh, yes, it does. But can we please stop here for a moment? I need to get my breath back!’

‘Sure.’

‘Whatever’s happening, Shaun?’

‘I still don’t know. But we’ll find out, somehow.’

‘Yeah ...’

Where are my hankies? Oh, hell ...

‘Hey, take it easy, now. Let me do that for you ...’

‘Thanks.’ Sniff. ‘You really are so kind. My own Lord Protector. And that makes two of you, right here and now!’

‘Very funny. Anyhow, want to press on?’

‘OK.’

‘Let’s go along to Christ’s College, then ...’


‘Ah, the Origin of Paradise found, Shaun. And ... Oh no, they’ve done it again! Look! The gates of Christ’s have been swapped with Brasenose College in Oxford! And all the heraldic decorations! Oh, please, NO ...’

‘Sshhhh! Hey, we can’t stay here, Donna. There’s a policeman watching you far too closely ...’

‘But we have to try and understand this!’

‘No. We must get away! Through the shopping precinct!’


‘Look, Donna, here’s the University Church. It’s perfectly all right. And so is King’s College Chapel, straight ahead — see? We’ll cross over here ... hey, watch out for those bikes! And the college entrance is still looking glorious.’

‘Yes, everything seems OK, thank god. But the ghosts of King’s are back with me again, Shaun. It’s all a bit too much ... oh, I’m feeling giddy ...’

‘Whoa! Caught you! Right, we’re gonna sit you down on the wall just here.’

‘Yeah ... good idea ...’

‘And you can take a good long look at the Senate House when you’re feeling better. But it’s fine as well, I promise you. Caius is looking absolutely normal too.’

There’s that “absolutely” again!

‘Oh, thank you. Alas, poor Gonville, so oft forgot! And I can feel that history in my waters again.’

‘Never mind, I’m sure it’ll pass, and quite briefly. Now, d’you fancy stopping at the coffee shop over the road?’

‘Well, I would like a nice cup of tea, but I’d rather just stay here and rest quietly in the sun for a bit longer.’

‘No problem. I’m sure they do take-outs. Don’t go away.’

‘I shan’t, Shaun. Believe me, I shan’t.’

* * *

‘Right, I’d like to get moving again. There’s still so much to check out.’

‘As long as you’re happy, Donna. OK, let’s stroll up Kings Parade and along Trumpington Street. There’s one magnificent façade I think we really should have a very good look at.’

‘The Fitzwilliam Museum, you mean?’

‘Absolutely. Seems to me that’s ripe for the taking. It’s always reminded me of so many great buildings in Paris ...’

‘Oh, you don’t really think ...?’

‘Who knows, Donna? Anyway, we’ll soon discover if it’s all OK.’

‘Yes. And eyes left, for a moment, Shaun. Corpus Christi’s looking just fine! But we’re in Marlowe territory here, so have a care!’


‘Nearly there, now, Donna. Let’s cross the road for a proper look.’

‘Yes, of course ... No! NO! NO-OO-OO!!’

‘Oh dear, not again ...’

‘They’ve done it, Shaun! Just as you said! They’ve taken the Fitzwilliam away, and they’ve put the Madeleine Church in its place!’

‘Easy, Donna, easy. Come here! Hold me tight. There, is that better?’

‘Oh, Shaun, why, why ...?’

‘I still don’t know, baby. But if it’s any consolation, I always thought the Madeleine looked even nicer than the Museum ...’

‘Oh, how can you say such a thing! That’s not what matters! And you know it!’

‘Yeah, sorry. Should have engaged brain before opening ...’

‘Shaun! Stop jerking me around! We’ve got to do something!’

‘I don’t think you’ve got the strength to drink another cup of tea right now, young lady, let alone try anything more heroic!’

He’s right, of course. He’s always right, dammit.

‘You’re right. So, what do you suggest?’

‘Well, they’ve probably transferred the front of the Fitzwilliam straight over to Paris. Someone needs to chase it up, before it’s too late. But you need a good long rest before you even think about doing that ...’

‘Yes, of course I do. But there’s so much we still haven’t looked at here ...’

‘No point in worrying about Cambridge any longer, Donna. We know exactly where they’ve moved to now.’

‘I suppose so. God, I’m feeling so tired ...’

‘I think you should get yourself straight back on the train to London.’

‘Oh! Aren’t you going to come with me?’

‘No. Gotta see a man about a dog, here — later.’

There’s another one! Do people really still say that?

‘About a job, you mean?’

‘Sort of. And then I’m meeting an old friend for a drink. Probably sleep ... on the floor tonight.’

‘Oh. I see. All right, then. Well, shall I call you when I’ve decided what to do?’

‘Yeah.’

He’s very good at controlling his enthusiasm, isn’t he?

‘OK. Soon as I can, then ...’

How long do I have to wait?

‘So — do I get a little goodbye kiss?’

‘Sure .......’

Wow, that was better than I expected!

‘Look, are you certain we can’t travel back to town together?’

‘Sorry, no. I have too much to do. I’m gonna walk straight into the centre, but I reckon you should just rest here and wait for a cab.’

‘Yes, I think I will. OK, then ... bye for now, Shaun.’

Not nearly as gallant as I’d hoped. I really thought he was a bit more old-school than that. But he’s right again. I am exhausted. I will wait ... ah, there’s one! Lucky Donna!

‘Taxi!’


‘The railway station, please.’

Hang on a minute. Just had a horrible thought!

‘Sorry, before you turn round, could we please go via Pembroke Street? There’s something I need to look at on the way.’

‘We’ll get stuck in the traffic ...’

‘I know. I’ll pay whatever it costs. And I’ll give you a good tip.’

‘Fair enough.’

Thought we’d have overtaken Shaun by now. He must have turned off and gone down towards the river again ...

Good, the traffic’s queuing up to the St Andrew’s Street lights. We’ll be approaching Emmanuel College nice and slow and full-frontal. Then I can check that it’s .......

‘Aaaarrgh!’

‘What the hell’s the matter with you?’

‘It’s the College! Straight ahead, look! They have put the Ashmolean’s entrance in its place now! Stop the car!!’

‘What are you on about? Hey, sit still, woman, you’re distracting me. And I can’t stop in the middle of a junction!’

‘They’ve done it here too! Oh, no! I’ve got to call Shaun!’

‘Are you going to calm down?’

‘OK, yes, I’ll try, OK ...’

His phone’s switched off again. Dammit! And we’re already halfway up Regent Street.

‘Would you please go round again?’

‘No, I won’t. I’ll drop you here, or I’ll take you straight to the station. Either way, I want you out of my cab fast!’

Nobody cares. And I’m just so tired.

‘Oh, all right. Keep going, then ...’

* * *

Wed eve, late, in bed

Very easy journey back. Good job the train stopped at Finsbury Park.

Heated up some frozen lasagne and then found some weed and read Metamorphosis again. Feeling a lot less tense now than I did on the way home. It was bad enough seeing all those changes with Shaun, especially the Fitzwilliam — but then to discover what they’ve done to Emmanuel ...

I need to decide about Paris. Someone has to try and stop them. Wouldn’t it be good if Shaun and I could go together! But he doesn’t have any money, and he didn’t suggest it, and he’s suddenly got busy again. Odette!

Maybe I should call him and talk about it? It’s not that late. No, ease off, Donna. You need to hold onto this guy. He’s all you’ve got right now! Don’t push him. He’s cool enough as it is — most of the time! But he’s so nice when he isn’t!

ASTSOI.


To be continued ...

Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd

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